Limpag: Basketball curse

Mike T. Limpag
·2 min read

THE sad case of Ronald Pascua, the former PBA player fallen on hard times, reminded me of an astute observation one football coach told me in a forgotten session years ago.

Being in a basketball-mad country is both a blessing and a curse for superstars.

You see, the coach said, basketball players, especially those chased by recruiters, tend to have a spoiled “academic and athletic upbringing” so that once they leave school and realize their hoop dreams are beyond reach, most of them don’t have any fallback option.

By spoiled academic and athletic upbringing, the coach meant being able to pass subjects without seeing a classroom or being able to make other demands because of athletic skills.

And of course, because the PBA is there, there is always that dream of making it big in the pros, living the high life and having a happy ever after.

No such thing in football, the coach said. Football players know there’s no future for football after college—this was before the local scene developed—so they see their football career as a stepping stone only to a professional career.

There’s no money in football. That’s why everyone knows that if you want a career, better finish your degree. That’s what the coach would tell his players, especially those who’d start skipping practices.

Pascua is lucky. At 32, he is still relatively young, and the rise of other leagues like the MPBL and NBL means he still has that shot at a pro career—though those leagues would refer to themselves as amateur leagues.

But I hope his story would serve as a cautionary tale for collegiate players who are enjoying their life while taking their education for granted. You won’t be prized recruits forever, and the shelf life of a prize recruit is very, very short.

That’s why I like the Cesafi slogan, “Basta Cesafi, estudyante.” This is not a dig, of course, at other leagues. It simply means that the league puts a premium on education. And the previous 10 months, when Cebu sports was forced to a standstill due to the Covid pandemic, showed more than ever why finishing your degree is very important.

Having one is a sure way to avoid joining the list of talented players who’ve struggled after they maxed out their athletic abilities.